Meet Mark Cullen

Canada's best known gardening personality, Mark Cullen believes that Canadians of all ages need to play more - preferably in the dirt. A best-selling author with over 400,000 books in print, Mark reaches over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets. He is Home Hardware's horticultural spokesperson and regularly contributes to various magazines, gardening shows and newsletters. With a familiar style that people can relate to, he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative and inspirational - all based on his organic approach to gardening. In his spare time Mark enjoys driving his Ford Model A - and of course he loves to garden.

A Last Minute Chance to Invest in a Fabulous Spring.

For over 50 years our family owned and ran a small chain of retail garden centres in Toronto. ‘Weall and Cullen’ was what my Dad ‘did’ when I was a kid. It was, like so many family businesses in this land, what we ate, drank and breathed as an entire family for so much of the year.

So it came as no surprise when Dad showed up sometime just before Christmas with a bunch of unsold tulips in the trunk of his Chevy. He called them ‘excess inventory’ otherwise known as waste, had he not put them to good use.

Which brings me to this: today there is ‘excess inventory at your local garden retailer in the form of spring flowering bulbs. I am here to save you money, help you to create a fabulous garden and encourage you to use what remaining time there is left before the winter sets in for earnest….. That is, as long as you can dig the soil, there is potential for a great spring. Cheap.

Do all spring flowering bulbs produce when planted this late?

No. I discourage the planting of daffodils and narcissus beyond Thanksgiving. You will notice that the remaining bulbs of this ilk are often not very firm when squeezed. If they are dry and soft, they are blanks. Nothing good will come of them.
Even if they do have what I call ‘viability’ they will likely rot in the ground because there just isn’t enough time for them to put down the roots that they need before the hard freeze up.

You dummy – where I live the frost is in the ground and the snow is on it!!

If you live in the great white north or the great Canadian prairie, I understand that you may well be under some of our famous snow.
That does not mean that the tulips for sale at a remarkable price at your local retailer are no good. Bring them home and put them in pots filled with quality potting mix and put them in a cold area…. About 8 to 10 degrees C works great. Water them from time to time, keeping the soil only moist and not ‘wet’ and wait for the growth to begin to poke through the soil surface.

Bring these upstairs into the living area of your home where it is warm – one or two pots at a time so that they do not bloom all at once.
Give them away at Christmas. Your family will think that YOU were the one born with the green thumb. Your friends will spread very complimentary rumours about your generosity and about how clever you are.

How 'bout crocus, Scylla, grape hyacinths and the like? Will they grow and bloom if I plant this late?

Yes, likely. But tulips – ALL tulips – are foolproof in this regard.
Seems that they don’t need the time in the fall to put down roots: they will do this come spring as the ground eventually thaws (remember that it does not thaw in one day……).

What kinds of tulips are best?

Chances are that the pickings at your retailer will be so slim about now, that it you won’t have much choice. However, I like the early flowering Darwin Hybrids best of all. They give the best early show. Early flowering bulbs provide colour for an extended period of time as they are blooming during the cool part of the season. The cooler the weather (to a point) the longer the blooms last.
This works in reverse, of course, for late blooming bulbs.

Do I need special soil?

Not really: just well drained soil. If your soil is heavy with clay, add lots (50% by volume) of sharp sand to improve the drainage and do not plant as deeply as you would normally.

Do I need to feed bulbs this time of year?

Fact is, all of the goodness that a bulb needs to bloom and please come spring is right in the bulb itself. However, there are two special products that do provide nutrition to the bulb when it is needed most: when the bulb has finished blooming and the foliage is building up the roots for the upcoming season of blooms.
These two products are:
- bone meal
- Holland Bulb Booster (

Drive over to your favourite bulb supplier this weekend and see for yourself… and check out the selection of Amaryllis bulbs which just arrived. Once again, the newest and the best selection is available early in the selling season.

Keep your knees dirty!